BAGUIO CITY – The 42 percent hike in Human Immune Virus (HIV) cases in the country last year was considered by reproductive health advocates as alarming and concerned stakeholders must start strengthening the implementation of preventive and treatment measures to spare the sexually active population from being afflicted with the dreaded illness that would translate to full blown Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS).
Romeo C. Dongeto, Executive Director of the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD), said the National Epidemiology Center was able to record, 6,011 new HIV cases that were recorded last year and 509 of the cases were recorded in December alone.
He disclosed a total of 22,527 HIV cases have been documented since 1984 which dramatically increased in recent years due to behavioural problems among the Filipinos.
Dongeto revealed the most common mode of viral transmission was sexual contact followed by needle sharing when injecting drugs.
Ironically, Dongeto explained majority of those who acquired the virus through sexual contact were men having sex with men or what health authorities described as male sex.
“Male sex, persons who inject drugs, female sex workers and young people engaging in risky sexual behaviour are among key populations at higher risk to contract HIV,” Dongeto stressed.
For her part, Bai Bagasao, United Nations AIDS Watch country director, said the government needs at least P3 billion for HIV response in order to control the surge in the number of HIV cases that occur in the different parts of the country.
“We have to ensure that government will appropriate more funds for comprehensive services on HIV prevention, treatment, care and support. We also need to intensify our campaign to educate the public, especially key affected populations about HIV and provide the necessary medical support for people living with HIV,” Bagasao underscored.
However, she described the P383 million earmarked by the government for HIV response for this year as ‘a far cry from the needed amount’ which might compromise efforts to spare over 80 percent of the key populations from continuously contracting the disease that might result to unabated increase in HIV cases nationwide.
Because of the alarming HIV cases in the country today, the PLCPD want legislators to immediately pass the bill seeking to amend Republic Act (RA) 8504 or the Philippine AIDS Prevention and Control Act of 1998.
Dongeto said the House version of the bill was approved on third reading last December and is now undergoing deliberations by the technical working group (TWG) headed by Senator Pia Cayetano in the Senate committee on health.
According to him, the bill aims to provide a comprehensive program on HIV prevention, treatment, care and support in order to effectively and efficiently address the ‘fast and furious’ increase of HIV cases in the country and provide for the needs of growing number of Filipinos living with HIV.
“We need a more aggressive response to this growing concern. We want zero new infections. A stronger law will enable us to achieve this goal,” Dongeto said.
PLCPD is an organization of lawmakers that aims to uplift lives of Filipinos through human development legislation and that it has been strongly advocating for the timely amendment of RA 8503.
Dongeto explained the shift in the country’s epidemic profile requires a stronger response, which RA 8504 once hailed as model legislation after its passage in 1998 no longer effectively addresses.
By Dexter A. See